Tag Archives: Artillery Shell Cross

Kinmen 金門: Transforming War into Peace @ The Home of the Kinmen Artillery Shell Crosses!

My first ever visit to the Kinmen Islands – YES!

Artillery Shells, Kinmen

Kinmen 金門 (aka Quemoy / Chinmen / Chin-men), one of Taiwan’s farthest-flung islands, is where the 823 Artillery Shell Bombardment 八二三炮戰 happened in 1958 as part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, when an estimated 450,000 artillery shells were fired at the Kinmen Islands. It’s also where the Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai had his vision in 2016 to transform some of those artillery shells into crosses, a symbol of hatred and war now transformed into a symbol of love and peace.  The Chin Ho Li Steel Knife Workshop 金合利, founded in 1963 in Kinmen, uses the discarded artillery shells to make high-quality steel blades for both kitchen and ornamental use. Maestro Wu, grandson of the founder, now runs the company, and he kindly offered his expertise to work with Bishop Lai on the design and production of the prototype crosses.  To produce lighter-weight crosses, he suggested using moulds, and this was done by sending the artillery shell steel to another factory elsewhere.  This project of the Taiwan Episcopal Church has now been fully realized, and while I was in the UK on home leave this past year, I presented Kinmen Artillery Shell Crosses to many church leaders. This included acting on behalf of Bishop Lai to present one to the Archbishop of Canterbury; Bishop Lai himself led a delegation from the National Council of Churches of Taiwan to the Vatican in December 2017, where he was able to present one to Pope Francis.   This is Maestro Wu’s workshop in Kinmen – the smell of the smelters in the workshop is really strong!

But y’know, until now, I had never actually visited Kinmen.  So you can imagine how excited I was when Bishop Lai invited me to join this church visit to Kinmen for 29 members and friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, from May 20-22, 2019!  His purpose on this visit was firstly to visit Maestro Wu to thank him for his help…

Secondly to visit the Zhaishan Tunnel翟山坑道 in Kinmen to sing our specially-composed Artillery Shell Cross hymn, and thirdly to visit Dadan Island 大膽島, open to the public only since March 2019.  This is everyone in the Zhaishan Tunnel….

Thanks be to God that, through His mercy and grace, we accomplished all that we wanted to do in Kinmen!  But as we arrived at Songshan Airport in Taipei City on Monday May 20 at 7:00 am to check in for the 8:00 am hour-long flight to Kinmen, we wondered whether we would even get off the ground.  The Plum Rains were here in full force; outside was torrential rain (in fact we learned later that flash-flooding caused St. John’s University to cancel classes that day), while we also heard that Kinmen Airport was closed and over 1,000 people had been stranded in Kinmen overnight waiting for the weather to improve.  The 7:00 am flight to Kinmen was first delayed, then cancelled, and we feared ours would be next. Down south in Kaohsiung, 7 of our group were already stranded at the airport there as their flight to Kinmen really was cancelled, so all they could do was wait on standby for a spare seat.  Our group at Taipei was 22 people, far too many to all get to Kinmen on standby if our flight was to be cancelled too.  Aaaah!  Then suddenly at about 8:30 am, the announcement came that we could proceed to check in our luggage and onwards to boarding.  YES!

And our group from Taipei have arrived at Kinmen!

The skies were dark as we started to fly west over the Taiwan Strait towards Kinmen.  But as we got closer, blue sky emerged up above, and by the time we arrived, the rain had stopped.  But it did continue to rain on and off all day, mostly heavily.  Fortunately our group from Kaohsiung also all managed to get there in the end, although it took until about 2:00 pm before the last 2 arrived.  Here we all are, united at the ceramics factory – possibly our only group photo of 28/29 of us (taken by Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu, one of our group) …

Like many islands in this part of the world, Kinmen has a complicated history.  “Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949, the government of the Republic of China (ROC) under Chiang Kai-shek began withdrawing its forces from mainland China to Taiwan. However, ROC garrisons remained stationed on the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, located off the coast in Fujian Province.”  In fact, the Kinmen Islands were so heavily militarized that, at its peak, an estimated 100,000 troops were stationed there.  Many hundreds of thousands of Taiwan men have done their military service in Kinmen, including our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang. For years, military service was 2 years, so Kinmen made a deep impression on those serving there.  These days, the total number of military personnel in the whole of the Kinmen Islands numbers less than 5,000.  What a difference! But there are the remnants of army bases, equipment, museums, guard posts and military memorials all over Kinmen.  Many of these more obvious memorials are standing right in the middle of roundabouts – guess it makes moving military equipment easier if there’s a roundabout rather than a sharp corner, anyway Kinmen has more roundabouts on that one single island than I have ever seen in the whole of the rest of Taiwan. 

Kinmen is located in Xiamen Bay, at the mouth of the Jiulong River, 227 km west of Taiwan, but only 10 km east of Xiamen.  Xiamen is a huge port city in China, population 3,500,000 (census of 2010), and formerly known as Amoy – it was a British-run treaty port from 1842 to 1912.  The main Greater Kinmen Island is shaped like a dumbbell or a butterfly (depending on your imagination); the narrowest part is 3 km wide, and at the widest part, east-west, it is 20 km.  There’s also the neigbouring island of Small / Lesser Kinmen 小金門, and the much smaller islands of Dadan, Erdan and more. 

Sadly Kinmen has been very badly deforested by all the political chaos, civil wars and centuries of pirate attacks, so instead of being protected by its forests, it is now famous for its northeast monsoon winds that roar around all autumn and winter and make cultivation very difficult.  All over Kinmen are Wind Lion God statues, originally installed to protect against wind damage, and now also believed to protect against evil spirits… 

And then there’s the cows – like roundabouts, it seems as if there’s more cows in tiny Kinmen than in the whole of Taiwan.  They’re on every grassy bit of field, all individually tied up and with their own bucket of water, and all with their own personality!

For me, the most interesting things in Kinmen are the old houses.  There’s old houses all over Taiwan, but nothing like the ones in Kinmen. I expected to see a few, but there are thousands.  Most of them are well-preserved and still inhabited, others have been converted to guest houses and holiday cottages. Their style is traditional Fujian, with swallowtail or horseback-shaped ridges on their roofs.  They are stunning – and I couldn’t get enough of ‘em!

Tourism is now a major source of income for Kinmen people, and being so close to Xiamen means that trade with China is booming.  The water supply even comes from there, via a pipeline, installed in 2018. The Kinmen government has invested a lot of money in developing the islands for tourism and trying to attract their people to move back from Taiwan and China. Business is good, and there are supermarkets and department stores, big houses and luxury developments.  Kinmen is also famous for the production of Kaoliang wine, made from sorghum, and at this time of year the fields of sorghum have just been harvested.  Food production also includes oysters, and out on the beach at low tide are vast oyster farms – the sky was hazy, but in the distance we could just see the skyscrapers of Xiamen.

On our arrival on Monday May 20, we went to the visitor centre, to the Zhaishan Tunnel (constructed between 1961-66 to keep military boats safe from attack), where we sang our artillery shell hymn, to the ceramics factory and then to Shishan (Mt. Lion) Howitzer Front獅山砲陣地 where we had a demo of artillery shells being fired from the Howitzer, which has a firing range of 17 km, and was used in the 823 Artillery Bombardment.  In the torrential rain, we also visited the cultural park.  Most of these places were inside – so fortunate – seeing as the rain kept on pouring down!

We were staying at a guest house called 璞真民宿, located in Jinning Township, in the NW of Kinmen and owned by Mr. Kao, a relative of one of our church members in Taipei.  He arranged all our itinerary for us, and we also very much enjoyed his wife’s home-cooked breakfasts – and the chance to use his main room for evening worship. Here he is with Bishop Lai, drinking tea…

Early on Tuesday morning, I was up early to walk around the area. Fields of peanuts, tractors, temples and so many old houses to take photos of – oh yes, and a deer ranch! 

On our third day in Kinmen, I was up early again for sunrise over the fish farms, and walked along to the nearby villages of Nanshan and Beishan…

And the very nearby Li Guang-Qian General Temple 李光前將軍廟. General Li Guang-Qian was the highest ranking officer in the Battle of Guningtou, and his statue is now installed as the main deity…. 

“The Battle of Guningtou 古寧頭之役, also known as the Battle of Kinmen 金門戰役, was a battle fought over Kinmen in the Taiwan Strait during the Chinese Civil War in October 1949. Commanders of the PRC People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believed that Kinmen and Matsu had to be taken before a final assault on Taiwan.  The PLA planned to attack Kinmen by launching a first attack with 9,000 troops to establish a beachhead, before landing a second force of roughly 10,000 on Greater Kinmen Island, expecting to take the entire island in three days”. But the PLA completely underestimated the number of Nationalist ROC troops on Kinmen, and they landed at high tide so their vessels were beached and they couldn’t return for reinforcements. By the third day they had run out of food and ammunition.  “The failure of the Communists to take the island left it in the hands of the Kuomintang (Nationalists) and crushed their chances of taking Taiwan to destroy the Nationalists completely in the war”.   

Just near the village of Beishan, where much of the fighting took place, is the marker for the Battle of Guningtou, in front of one of the houses badly damaged in the battle… 

Nearby is the Guningtou Museum and its famous Peace Bell…

We also visited the oyster farm at low tide and the nearby beach…

And also on our trip, we visited the Deyue Tower, and the old houses belonging to the overseas Chinese community…

Also the Juguang Tower, Kinmen’s iconic landmark, built in 1953 as a memorial for Kinmen’s fallen soldiers in the Battle of Guningtou 4 years earlier – seen as a token of Kinmen’s spirit, and for many years used as an image on Taiwan’s postage stamps. And I just love the Kinmen telephone boxes, with the Chinese characters for Kinmen 金門 above…

We visited Rushan Visitor Centre and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Memorial Hall 蔣經國先生紀念 (ROC president 1978-1988) where there were displays of military might, and quite surprisingly a lovely pine forest to walk around in.  

One of our main purposes in going to Kinmen was to visit Dadan Island 大膽島, located right in the middle of Xiamen Bay, only 4,400 metres from Xiamen – the red dot marks the spot….

If Kinmen has had a tragic past, then Dadan Island’s past is possibly even more tragic. The 823 Artillery Shell Bombardment in 1958 hit Dadan Island hard (over 100,000 artillery shells landed), and ever since then it’s been even more of a major hub of military activity.  It was only demilitarized and handed over to the civilian government in 2014, and now it’s open for guided tours (though not as yet for citizens of China, Hong Kong or Macau).  This is the place where patriotic recordings were broadcast daily across the Xiamen Bay, and the place where the Dadan Psychological Warfare Wall was built in 1986 – the 3.2-meter-tall, 20-meter-long wall labeled with military slogans is a top-rated tourist attraction among mainland tourists. We even saw the tourist boats coming near to check it out. Dadan is also the place where homesick young military conscripts installed 1,473 cement lion statues, shrines and temples to help them survive the rigours of military life amid the uncertainties of not knowing whether they would ever be able to return home alive. 

We had the chance to visit Dadan Island on Tuesday, though our group divided into several mini-groups for the occasion, and we had to go on different days; the tours have to be booked in advance, and numbers are very limited, and it takes 2 boat trips to get there.  Actually it was a fascinating tour, with a very knowledgeable guide, who took us walking up and down on the steep road that winds round the island – fortunately the weather was kind and the breeze was pleasant, in summer it would be really hot, and hard work. The road is marked by artillery shell casings, used as fence-posts. This was the morning part of the tour…

A simple lunch was provided, and we got to keep the lunch containers to bring home.  It is really amazing to see the resilience of nature and how the island has restored itself after being bombarded so heavily by all those 100,000 artillery shells, which left it almost completely destroyed – we saw the video when we first arrived there, and it looked like complete devastation. Instead there are trees, shrubs, flowers, birds of prey, and if you didn’t know it, you’d think you were in a nature reserve.  It’s really quite beautiful, and yet at every turn are the remains of the old military buildings, hospital, barracks, broadcasting station, temples, repair workshops, tanks, jeeps, graves of beloved dogs, tunnels, guard posts and more.  The banyan trees are gradually growing their roots and trunks up and in and through and out of the old ruined buildings, it’s all quite eerie.  Camouflaged khaki-coloured buildings cover up pretty well when nature is allowed to take its course.  Well worth going to see. 

On Wednesday evening, we headed to the airport to return home, grateful to God for His many blessings. It was really humbling the way the whole visit turned out, especially given the weather on our first day and the possibility that we might not have been able to go at all.  The Taiwan Episcopal Church usually arranges one such trip each year, each time to a different place, usually for 3 days.  We are all grateful to Mr. Di Yun-Hung from St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung for organizing the trip – this time the logistics were very difficult to work out, but in the end, everything came together. 

Y’know, I really liked Kinmen.  Usually I hate all militaristic stuff, I try to avoid posing for photos in front of old tanks and guns, and I don’t like visiting places famous for battles, wars and military events.  So I was pleasantly surprised that there is way more to Kinmen than just remnants of war.  The traditional culture of Kinmen is really interesting, the countryside is green and verdant, the food is good, the people are warm-hearted, and the place is prosperous. Kinmen’s tragic history is important and we can’t ignore it, but fortunately these days the focus in Kinmen is more on finding ways to make peace and increase stability.  Long may it continue. And now that Dadan Island is open for visitors, it is becoming a popular place to visit. The more people know their history, the better. I was certainly happy to get my ticket!

And, guess what, one of the interesting things about Kinmen is the unexpectedness of everything, you never know if you’re going to come across an old tank, a cow or even a chicken standing on one leg outside a department store!

Our Kinmen Artillery Shell Crosses are one meaningful way to show that hatred and war can be transformed into love and peace through our prayers, through the cross of Christ.  Do come and visit Kinmen, come and see for yourself, and meanwhile do hold the people of Kinmen, Taiwan, China and the whole of the Pacific Rim in your prayers and hearts. 

A New Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines ~ and we were there!

Many congratulations from St. James’ Church, Taiwan – to Bishop Dixie on his retirement, and to Bishop Rex on his installation – YES!

A group of 6 of us from St. James’ Church, Taichung, Taiwan had the honour of attending the installation service of Bishop Rex Reyes as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines (EDCP) on Thursday March 14, 2019. Thanks be to God!

And I had the fun of taking photos from all angles and heights…

Manila this past week was definitely THE place to be! And more specifically, Cathedral Heights, Quezon City, where a huge compound owned by the Episcopal Church in the Philippines houses their provincial offices, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Trinity University of Asia, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary (SATS), and the National Cathedral.

And the place was packed with busy people as EDCP were holding their 47th diocesan annual convention in the provincial offices from March 12-14…

The convention culminated in the installation service of the new bishop, held at the diocesan ‘pro-cathedral’ at St. Stephen’s Parish, in the ‘China Town’ area of Manila – not to be confused with the National Cathedral, which is for the whole province of the Philippines. Yes, it’s kinda complicated having both provincial and diocesan buildings in the same city, especially when getting from one to another may involve long hours in traffic. This was us arriving on Wednesday evening and driving from the airport into the city…. hey, it’s all part of the experience; even traffic jams are ‘more fun in the Philippines’ as the advertising slogan goes!

For historical reasons, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines is strongest among the indigenous Igorot people in the mountainous provinces of the northern Philippines, but many have moved south, looking for land to farm and settle on, and some have settled in the EDCP area around Manila (they, together with the 2 Chinese-speaking Episcopal churches in Manila, form the backbone of the EDCP today). The partnership between St. James’ Church, Taichung and EDCP started in 1998 when Bishop Manuel Lumpias wrote from Manila to Bishop John C.T. Chien in Taiwan describing how groups of Igorot Episcopalians gather to worship under mango trees due to lack of church buildings. Mango trees are everywhere in the Philippines, big and broad and shady; great for groups to meet under them on a temporary basis, but not much good in the rain!

Bishop Chien gave that letter to Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, then rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung, and Charles was deeply moved. He remembers how St. James’ itself started through the generosity of Christ Church, Greenville in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina (USC) and the United Thank Offering (UTO) way back in the early 1970’s. As Charles said, when he read Bishop Lumpias’ letter, “In Taiwan, we had nothing and we were so poor; now we have everything, so it is time for us to help others. Just as Christ Church and the UTO gave so willingly to us in our early days, so we want to express our thanks by sharing our wealth with others.”

And so Charles sprang into action, and within a short time, St. James’ Church had raised US$ 6,000 to build a church in EDCP. Then, on finding out that the village had no water supply, they raised a further US$ 3,000 to install a permanent water supply for the whole community. That church was Christ the King, Sandeline, Nueva Ecija, consecrated on July 27, 1999. But it was only the beginning, and through succeeding EDCP bishops, Bishop Benjamin Botengan and then Bishop Dixie Taclobao, the partnership expanded from that one church to eventually become 12 churches, all built with money raised by St. James’ Church. In many cases, it was individual donors from St. James who wanted to express their gratitude to God by building a church in the Philippines, in other cases it was a collective church effort.

As time went on, so the cost of construction increased, but Charles always loves a challenge and he continued undaunted! In 2010, thinking the project was at an end with 11 churches built, a Thanksgiving Service was held at Holy Carpenter Church, Villa Labrador (church No. 8, consecrated in November 2009), and attended not only by Charles and his wife, Maryjo, but also the Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai and his wife Lily. Actually it turned out that one more church was to be built after that, St. Gregory’s, Cogeo, Metro Manila, consecrated in November 2012; one third of the money was donated by a member of St. James, Ms. Hsu Hui-Lan, in memory of her husband, whose Chinese name translates as Gregory, the rest of the money was raised by St. James’ Church. We visited St. Gregory’s Church on this trip, and were warmly welcomed by the church members…

Since 2012, with the official completion of the church-building project, our partnership has developed in different ways. St. James Church, Taichung welcomed Lynn Baguiwet, trusted and faithful EDCP Finance Officer for a 2-week visit in September 2013, followed by Rev. Joel del Rosario who came to St. James for 2 months in the summer of 2015. Both have become great friends of us all, and we hope for more visits from EDCP clergy and friends in the future! This is Lynn on the left, and Fr. Joel on the right with Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, current rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung…

It was Rev. Lily Chang who organized this visit to EDCP; it was actually her first visit, she became rector of St. James in 2015. Rev. Charles Chen and Maryjo came too of course, they are both so amazingly full of energy at 84 years old, and intrepid travelers still. They couldn’t wait to get to the Philippines and meet all our old friends once again! And we were accompanied by Rev. Sam C. S. Cheng and his wife, Julie, such great supporters of this whole partnership. Sam is former junior warden of St. James from way back in the late 1990’s, and so it was Charles, Maryjo, Sam and Julie who had made that first visit from St. James to EDCP to see the first church, Christ the King, Sandeline; we think that visit was in the summer of 1999. That was just after I arrived at St. James. Since that initial visit, there have been 7 visits altogether of St. James’ people to EDCP with a grand total of about 20 church members from St. James having visited one or more times. Charles has been on 6 of the visits, with a gap of one in the middle, I too have been on 6 of the visits, excluding the very first one. Thought you might like to see one of the early photos, from my first trip in 2003, when we visited one of ‘our’ churches, St. Mark’s Church, San José, Nueva Ecija – when were all a bit younger!

In 2017, when we heard that Bishop Dixie was going to retire, we had originally planned to come to the consecration of the new bishop, really as a way to say goodbye to our beloved Bishop Dixie and to thank him again for all his support in our partnership. But it wasn’t possible to come to the consecration due to timing, so we resolved to come instead to the installation. Thus it was that we arrived on Wednesday evening, March 13, after a 1¾ hour flight from Taipei. Two very helpful seminarians, Fray and Go, met us at the airport on behalf of the diocese. When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered that, staying at the same hotel as us and also attending the installation service, were our old friends, Archbishop Ng Moon Hing (Bishop of West Malaysia, Archbishop of the Province of S. E. Asia and Chair of CCEA – Council of Churches of East Asia), and his wife, Siew Lan. They are just so lovely and friendly! And then Archbishop Ng went off for a conference call, and Bishop Dixie, his wife Juliet and assistant Moises all came by to say hello. By then it was quite late, after their full day of meetings, but it was so great to renew our friendships and reconnect once again!

On Thursday morning, Lily and I were up and out ready for pick-up at 6:00 am (yes, EDCP conventions start really early!) We attended the 6:30 am Memorial Service at the National Cathedral, held on the third day of the convention each year, in memory of those of EDCP who have died in the previous year.

Then breakfast with the delegates and reunions with our old friends, especially Fr. Joel!

While the delegates had their meetings, we waited for the rest of our group, and then went on a tour of the compound. First to the National Cathedral. In 2012, we had the chance to meet Bishop Manuel Lumpias, whose letter had sparked the whole partnership (he used to say that it was the best letter he ever wrote, even though he couldn’t remember anything particular about it!) Bishop Lumpias sadly died last summer and his ashes are interred in the columbarium at the National Cathedral. Lynn took us to see his memorial and Charles was delighted to discover that he and Bishop Lumpias in fact share the same birthday, 5 years apart! We had a prayer in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of Bishop Lumpias, it was very moving to remember him on this visit.

We also visited St. Andrew’s Seminary (SATS) with a warm welcome and tour of the buildings too!

And we were delighted to meet up with Bishop Benjamin Botengan, Bishop Dixie’s predecessor, and his wife, Mrs. Kate Botengan. Such a happy reunion, and a group photo – of course!

We met up with Fr. Gerry, such a delight…

And then we visited Prime Bishop Joel Pachao in his office, just above the meeting room of the EDCP convention; ‘prime bishop’ means he’s in overall charge of all 7 dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines…

After lunch, while the delegates finished up their convention meetings, we were taken to visit St. Stephen’s High School, where we enjoyed meeting the principal, Dr. Judy Tan, and her staff once again. The school is bilingual, Mandarin Chinese and English, and they persuaded me to visit 2 of the classrooms to talk to the students to try to enthuse them to keep up their Chinese – yep, wish I’d had the chance to learn it when I was their age!

And then next door to the ‘pro-cathedral’ for the installation service at 5:00 pm. Also at the service were Bishop Luke Muto and a group from the Diocese of Kyushu, Japan, companion diocese of EDCP, and other bishops of the Philippines, plus ecumenical partners, friends and family of the new bishop. It turns out that Bishop Rex has many friends in the Taiwan Presbyterian Church through his former work as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), and ongoing responsibilities at the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum. Wonderful!

After the service, we went to another part of the school for the installation dinner – yummy yummy! We had beauitful music and dancing displays from students of St. Stephen’s High School…

On behalf of Bishop David J. H. Lai, Rev. Lily Chang presented both Bishop Dixie and Bishop Rex with artillery shell crosses

And Bishop Rex presented our group with distinctive Igorot bags from Sagada Weaving… THANK YOU! 😊😊😊

Bishop Rex also presented Bishop Dixie with a special plaque of thanksgiving ….

We met Bishop Rex’s family…

And so many friends!

On Friday, March 15, while Bishop Rex was meeting with his clergy, Bishop Dixie and Juliet kindly gave up their first official day of retirement to take us to visit 2 of ‘our’ churches. At the first one, St. Gregory’s, we were warmly welcomed with coffee and snacks. We sang in English, Tagalog and Chinese, then shared in fellowship with the church members. The plot of land is tiny, so the church has an upstairs, and it was great to see the way it is being so well used for Sunday School, and as a place where seminarians can stay when they come for the weekends.

The senior warden and one of the church members came on with us to visit the second of our churches, St. James, in rural San Isiro, about an hour away from St. Gregory’s. The road has now been paved to within a few km of the church so everyone was delighted. We passed a jeepney with people sitting on the roof, and resolved if we ever come again, then we hope Bishop Dixie’s energetic and adventurous wife, Juliet can take us for a trip on the top of a jeepney! The 15 church members had all gathered at St. James to welcome us and cook lunch, made from their own vegetables, fruits and chickens. It was really delicious! Fr. Ben, in charge of both St. Gregory’s and St. James, is currently in Jerusalem, but his wife, Liz had come especially to St. James to join us, and she had brought a Ugandan friend, Catherine who came to Manila originally to do a PhD and is now doing research. It was great to find myself speaking Swahili with her – in the unlikely setting of the middle of the Philippine countryside! We had brought a box of T-shirts from our St. James’ Language Institute, bearing the name of St. James, for the people of both churches, also boxes of pineapple cakes!

By then we were exhausted and ready to go back to Manila, but hey, there was some shopping to be done, and energy levels suddenly shot up – off to the shopping mall to buy some must-have dried mangoes!

That evening, Rev. Lily Chang (on behalf of St. James’s Church) hosted a dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and it was wonderful to be able to share our gratitude with our wonderful hosts. We welcomed Bishop Dixie and Juliet, Bishop Rex, Fr. Joel, Lynn, Fr. Lendehl (EDCP, but formerly supported by AsiaCMS, we’ve met twice at CMS conferences in Malaysia and Cambodia!), Moises (who organized all our program and answered every question we ever had!), Deacon Ritchie (our amazing driver), plus Emily and Soledad who are members of the diocesan partnership committee. We shared our vision for future partnership and had a lot of laughs and fun, then presented gifts from St. James to everyone present…

And finally a group photo, YES!

And on Saturday early morning, we found ourselves on the way to the airport, driven by Fray – and accompanied by Fr. Joel who had come to see us off. They are all so kind and wonderful! Saturday apparently is even busier on the roads than weekdays, especially it being just after pay day – but we got there so early, we missed most of it!

And so farewell to Manila – the sun was shining as we took off, and as we looked down on the land below…

In fact it was beautiful weather all the way to the southern tip of Taiwan – which you can just see in the distance below…

After that, well, the clouds rolled in, and by the time we reached Taoyuan Int’l Airport, guess what, it was back to the rain that so characterizes the north of Taiwan. The sun was definitely great while it lasted!

A very big thank you to all our good friends in the Philippines, to Bishop Dixie and Bishop Rex and all in EDCP for their warm welcome and gracious hospitality, for their vision and their willingness to participate with us in this great adventure in mission. Thank you too to Rev. Lily Chang for welcoming me to join their group, and to St. James’ Church for their support. And to Rev. Charles Chen (and as always supported by MaryJo) especially, in gratitude for his vision, courage, passion and energy which has inspired so many to give to this project and enabled our partnership to develop over the years. Most of all, we give thanks to our Almighty God for His many blessings and for his enabling. To God be the glory, Amen!

Holy Trinity, Huddersfield Celebrates 200 Years: 1819-2019 ~ and 200 years of supporting the Church Mission Society!

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Just spent the weekend at one of my favourite CMS Link Churches: Holy Trinity, Huddersfield, and this year, they celebrate their 200th anniversary, YES! Congratulations and thanks be to Almighty God!

I’ve been supported by Holy Trinity ever since I first joined CMS in 1989, and have been visiting every 3-4 years since then. My previous visit was in March 2015 (see that blog post here), and I’ve also kept in touch with several clergy and church leaders who have moved away, they’re all so wonderful! One such couple is Kevin and Sandra Partington, who were originally part of Holy Trinity Church, then he was ordained and I came across them again when Kevin became rector of Dewsbury Team Parish, one of my supporting link churches. Now they’re retired back to Huddersfield, and they came over on Saturday evening to visit, bringing 20 angels, all hand made by the team at Dewsbury Minster – I had ordered them on my visit there in October, and now they’re ready for me to take to Taiwan to give as gifts – aren’t they so lovely? (The angels that is – but so of course are Kevin and Sandra – and Tina too!)

Holy Trinity is a lively group of people, and I was delighted to go there this weekend, my last CMS Link Church visit of this home leave. The current vicar is Rev. Mike Wilkins, and he has a great leadership team, Steve – the curate, Wayne – the youth leader, Natasha – in charge of ministry among children and families, and many others including churchwardens, lay readers, pastoral workers – there’s names and photos of them all on the notice board…

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I preached at the combined morning service at 10:00 am, followed by coffee in the church – and lots of photos!

After a delicious lunch at the vicarage, at 4:00 pm we had a confirmation service at Holy Trinity, where 7 new members of the church were confirmed…

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The confirmation service was led by Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Huddersfield, one of 5 area bishops in the new Diocese of Leeds. I presented Mike and Jonathan with artillery shell crosses from Taiwan…

Holy Trinity Church is really growing, it’s great to see lots of people sitting in the upstairs balcony – and full downstairs! Many students from the nearby University of Huddersfield have made this their spiritual home, got involved in the music and other ministries, and it’s so encouraging to see a good many young people and families.

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There’s at least 9 ‘Life Groups’ meeting during the week with a total of about 100 people. During yesterday’s service there was a report of their community review which has taken a year of knocking on the doors of the parish to find out what people need, want and would like to see their parish church doing. It’s quite a multicultural area with mixed housing, with many retired people, and also houses converted into student accommodation. Providing more activities for older people – and especially to combat loneliness – is one of the challenges for the church in the future.

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One of the newest outreach activities is the Walking for Health group, meeting every Thursday morning in the nearby Greenhead Park, followed by coffee in the church. This is also being supported by the local authority, and is part of a nationwide attempt to improve people’s physical and mental health.  Wish I could join!

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Holy Trinity has long been an outward-looking, mission-minded church, and has been associated with, and supporting the Church Mission Society ever since the very beginning. This is from the churchwarden’s blog on the church website, under ‘No. 3: Holy Trinity – a giving church’…

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“Holy Trinity is a ‘tithing’ church. This means that the church gives away 10% of its income to God’s work elsewhere. The Mission Support Team co-ordinates this giving which is shared between 6 agencies in the UK and abroad. This giving is in addition to the Parish Share, (which is our contribution to the diocese for funding the wider work of the church and paying the clergy costs) which is around £50,000 per year.

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The Church Missionary Society (CMS) has been supported by Holy Trinity since the church’s beginning. Benjamin Haigh Allen the founder of Holy Trinity, was also a founder member of the Huddersfield CMS branch in 1813, aged just 20. CMS sent Rev Henry Maddock on a preaching tour that visited Huddersfield in 1814. CMS was collecting subscriptions to educate and provide for African children recently released from slavery. The donors were entitled to name the slave child. Allen gave a £5 subscription and named a child ‘Sarah Whitacre’ after his fiancé whom he was soon to marry. Allen also appointed Maddock to be Holy Trinity’s first minister.

The campaign to abolish slavery was led by the Yorkshire MP, William Wilberforce, who visited Allen and stayed at Greenhead several times. Slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. In 1899, through CMS, Holy Trinity joined the ‘Our-Own-Missionary’ scheme and £184 was given to support the work of Annie Graham in Hangchow, China where she worked until 1918.

A well-loved Holy Trinity couple, Clem and Mary Davies, upon their retirement served at the Ngora Hospital, in Uganda through CMS in 1972, returning to Huddersfield in the mid-1980s. Jillian Cossar, was Holy Trinity’s next C.M.S. link missionary she served in Kenya until September 1988. Our current CMS link is Catherine Lee who taught in schools in Mwanza and Dodoma in Tanzania. Since 1999 Catherine has been in Taiwan, at first teaching in Taichung and now supporting the church, chaplaincy and kindergarten ministry of the Diocese of Taiwan in Taipei.

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Our mission partners remind us all that we are all called to serve God in our lives – indeed our church strapline is ‘Loving God, Loving Huddersfield’ which reflects this. Our God is a generous God and as a church we have learnt time and time again that we cannot out-give Him and that we should be generous with His gifts to us for the benefit of others.”

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I’m posting this blog in Birmingham, where I’m now staying with Mike’s predecessor at Holy Trinity – the former vicar, Calvert Prentis and his wife, Sharon ~ such gracious people, and Sharon really makes me laugh.  She once came to visit me in Taiwan and it was such fun ~ just don’t mention those Taiwan cockroaches!  Ah, Holy Trinity is full of such smiling people!

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I finished my visit to Holy Trinity by attending the Little Lights Toddler Group this morning in the church – they are all so gorgeous and I had great fun playing with them all! Thanks to Mike, Steve and all the mission support team, pictured here, for their hard work over the years, and especially to Tina for her welcome to stay at her home this weekend.

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Really loved it, really appreciate it all, thank you. And wishing Holy Trinity well as they prepare for their next 200 years of ministry in the exciting Yorkshire town of Huddersfield!

Snow, Sun & Smiles @ University of Chester Chaplaincy & Chester Cathedral ~ YES!

Spells of sleet, hail, snow, rain and sun accompanied me on Tuesday as I drove north up the A41 through Shropshire and Cheshire, passing signposts to places I am sure I had never heard of before, let alone ever been to – Tong, Weston-under-Lizard, Crackleybank, Child’s Ercall, Whitchurch, Malpas, No Man’s Heath. What evocative place-names. And the sleet, hail, snow, rain and sun continued on into the afternoon as I rolled into Chester, that great city of the north, not far from the Welsh border. And by the time Wednesday morning arrived, there was a thin layer of white snow everywhere, glistening in the sun, and Chester looked beautiful.

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So pleased I was to have a day off from driving too. This is my ‘new’ car, picked up from London last week, in exchange for my silver VW Polo that had served me well, but was no longer running as smoothly as I wanted it to, so I’ve exchanged it for this – blue is just sooo much nicer than silver! Anyway, though the roads and paths in Chester on Wednesday morning were icy and fairly treacherous, but hey, how could I stay indoors when I just saw my first real snow of winter?

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I was in Chester, invited by my good friends, Peter and Vicki. I had also visited them over the Remembrance Day weekend in November, so this was my second visit on this home leave – I just can’t keep away! Peter is senior chaplain at the University of Chester (see their really good chaplaincy website here), and on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm, they have a chapel service.  I was invited to speak, and share a little about CMS and Taiwan ~ and also presented the chaplains with an artillery shell cross…

On Tuesday evening I joined the chaplaincy team, staff and students for a yummy dinner, and on Wednesday after the service, we also had a meal together. I got to meet the other chaplains and staff, plus a whole host of lively students studying all sorts of things, all full of interesting conversation.  The very top photo was taken of a group meeting in the chaplaincy house on Wednesday afternoon.  A few I met at the chapel service were international students – particularly delightful were identical twins from Malaysia, so lovely! Thanks to Peter and Vicki for their hospitality, and to all in the chaplaincy for their very warm welcome!

And in-between the chaplaincy events, so I went into Chester to see the cathedral, and walk around the walls. The walls are amazing. Saw so much – the streets, castle, racecourse, river, shops, the famous clock and more.